Have you ever felt that there were times when you knew you needed to do something – or you were pushed into doing something – and that made you feel like you didn’t want to do it or did not want to give it your best effort?
This is actually a phenomenon in psychology known as “Psychological Reactance.” It’s the tendency for people to react negatively when they feel someone or something is taking away their choice, or their ability to seek out more alternative solutions.
How Psychological Reactance Affects Social Interaction
Psychological reactance can affect us at home, at work, and throughout our personal lives. We may find ourselves resistant to things that would otherwise benefit us because we don’t believe we have a choice.
For example, in a happy and long term relationship, pressure to get married from friends or relatives could cause someone to question whether they want it. Pressure to become a doctor in school could push someone to apply to fewer schools or give their applications less effort, and so on.
Understanding psychological reactance, however, can help you learn more about how to approach different social interactions:
- If you understand this social tendency, you can use it to change how you approach people from whom you want or need something. For example, if you find that people are not reacting to your leadership, you can find new ways to address your needs that put help the other person feel less pressure to perform as per your instructions, in order to reduce reactance.
- Similarly, it can help you understand your own motivations and resistance as well. When faced with pressure, if you find yourself reacting negatively to the idea of doing it you can remind yourself that that reactance is likely a result of the pressure, and then try to reflect on whether the action is the best one for you.
We can even use this in therapy. When taking the advice of a therapist, it’s not uncommon to react in a defensive or negative way as a result of this pressure. Knowing that that may occur in advance can help therapy be more useful for you.
Psychological reactance can be hard to change, but you can be more aware of it so that it doesn’t control the decisions you make or how you are able to obtain what you need from others. If you’re looking for a new therapist on Long Island, contact our team today.